If you’re visiting Glacier National Park in Montana, you may consider taking a drive north, to visit the park’s Canadian counterpart: Waterton Lakes. If you do, chances are, you’ll be taking a drive up the Chief Mountain Highway, also known as Montana 17. It’s a beautiful drive that complements the scenery you’ll find on either end of it.
Everything is beautiful in this area of Montana, but when you’re driving along Highway 17, there really is just one star of the show: Chief Mountain. You’ll see this distinctive peak poking up above the trees in numerous places.
Chief Mountain is located on the boundary of Glacier National Park. You’ll enjoy a great look at it at this roadside turnout…
… and again, at this cow pasture.
If you’re lucky, you’ll even spot this reflective pond at the side of the road, and snap a good picture of Chief Mountain in the water. Be sure to watch the Drivelapse video, further down the page, for a better idea of what the entire road looks like.
Northbound traffic will need to stop at the Canadian customs station, straight ahead. On your way back into the U.S., you’ll drive through the American station, pictured on the left.
Once you’ve answered the border patrol’s questions, you’re officially in the land of moose and Mounties. You’re also inside the boundaries of Waterton Park, or as it’s more formally known, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
For most people, crossing the border will be simple. If you’re an American, you will need to show a passport (book or card). You will probably be asked a few questions about the length of your stay, where you’re staying, what you plan to do, etc. It’s okay to drive your car across the border, even if it’s a rental car (but you may want to check with your rental car company, just to be safe).
Beyond the border, you’re headed downhill, almost the entire way to the official entrance to Waterton and the park’s attractions. I’ll cover the Canadian side of this road on a separate page.
The Bottom Line
Chief Mountain Highway is the shortest route between Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park, but it’s also a beautiful, scenic drive. Take time to enjoy it.
Chief Mountain Highway is located on the east side of Glacier National Park. It runs from US 89, north of Babb, Montana, northwest to the Canadian border. Once you’re in Canada, the road becomes Alberta Route 6, and continues on to the park entrance, and then on to Pincher Creek — the nearest sizeable town.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive along Chief Mountain Highway from US 89 to Waterton: